The tax-exempt non-profit Fair Housing Center (FHC) of West Michigan recently filed a housing discrimination charge against a Grand Rapids, Michigan woman (let’s call her Victim) who posted an advertisement on her church’s bulletin board looking for a “Christian” roommate. According to Nancy Haynes of the FHC, because Victim’s ad specifically states she is offering only for a “Christian” individual to apply, it is a strict violation of the federal Fair Housing Act. Truth be told, the only violation in this situation is of Victim’s constitutional rights.
In the first place, the Fair Housing Act is unconstitutional. I know I sound like a broken record. Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution does not mention the regulation of housing as an enumerated power of Congress. Thus, housing falls under the jurisdiction of state power in our system of federalism. Since the ad in question is not a violation of Michigan state law the actions of the FHC of West Michigan amount to little more than legal harassment of a property owner.
Naturally, that is not the way Ms. Haynes sees it. She does admit that Victim “…can actually, in practice, not rent to a non-Christian. But she can’t make the statement. The statement alone is a violation of the act. What she can do in practice she can’t make a statement about”. This is sort of like the “don’t ask, don’t tell” of the rental housing business. What sense does it make? It seems the law was only written to make lawyers rich. What else is new, right? In essence, the Fair Housing Act is not about anti-discrimination after all – it is solely about political correctness. This, of course, makes all the politicians who over the decades have proclaimed the law fights discrimination in housing liars. Surprise, surprise!
Whatever the Fair Housing Act does it is also unconstitutional because it violates the constitutional rights of property owners. Freedom of speech and the free exercise of one’s religion are bedrock rights held by every American. Victim is being denied both by the Fair Housing Act. What’s more, the 5th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution prohibit the deprivation of life, liberty, and property without “due process of law”. Victim has not been accused of a crime and has not been afforded due process of law. By placing stipulations on how Victim can use her property the government is essentially depriving her of the full use thereof.
The big question is, how did we get to this point in America? How is it that a church parishioner who is simply looking for a roommate of the same faith got so entangled in a legal quagmire? It’s quite simple. There has been an erosion of property rights in America since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law. The Act rightly banned government from passing laws which segregated lunch counters, water fountains, and buses, but it went too far when it reclassified certain private property as public property, thus violating the constitutional rights of property owners. In other words, as repugnant as discrimination is, Congress had no constitutional right to force any business owner to serve anyone they didn’t want to. The 1964 Act opened the floodgates for violations of property rights like the one experienced by Victim.
In the final analysis, Congress does not have the authority to regulate housing let alone pass laws that violate the constitutional rights of Americans. But, since at least the 1960s that is precisely what it has done. Instead of letting the free market and local communities deal with undesirable behavior, Washington uses force to tread upon the constitutional rights of our friend Victim and millions of others. Until Americans elect property rights representatives to Congress the violations will continue. So in the meantime be careful about how you use your own property.